Fake Degrees, Substandard Education

RECENT earthshaking revelation  by a Nigerian investigative journalist on the scandalous process of obtaining university degrees in exchange for money in neighbouring West African countries has once again exposed the rot in our educational system and the complicity of the relevant authorities.Umar Audu, a reporter from Daily Nigerian, busted a fake certificate mill at Ecole Supérieure de Gestion et de Technologies, ESGT, Cotonou, which awarded him a bachelor in Mass Communication in six weeks without stepping into the shores of the institution nor writing any examinations after parting with a sum of N600,000. Specificlly, Audu reportedly approached the syndicate that specialises in selling degree certificates in December 2022, graduated in February 2023 and was issued a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication.

MORE scandalous is the fact that the same Audu got  mobilised for and participated in the National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) on the strength of the fake certificate, a scheme he previously took part in. In the exposé, Audu said a Nigerian immigration officer helped him to obtain an ECOWAS passport and a backdated stamp of Nigerian Immigration and that of the Republic of Benin at a cost of N150,000. The reporter also cataloged the existence of similar fake degrees in different disciplines from Togo as well as some private universities in Nigeria.

THE implication of the above is that our system is so porous that the undercover journalist could beat the Ministry of Education and its agencies like NYSC, NUC and foreign/advancement departments on the one hand, and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in charge of travel regulations on the other. One wonders how the NYSC records could not prevent Audu from participating in the scheme for the second time!No doubt, this story has once again battered Nigerian reputation in the eye of the world.

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EXPECTEDLY, the Federal Ministry of Education in a swift response, placed a blanket ban on certificates from all schools from the Republics of Benin and Togo and set up an inter-ministerial committee to look into the activities of illegal universities.The ban has affected over 10,900 Nigerian students studying in Beninois and Togolese universities  according to statistics provided by the National Association of Nigerian Students in Benin Republic and Togo as their certificates may no longer be recognised anywhere in Nigeria upon their return..

THE Ministry has also set up a committee to look into the activities of private universities established in the last 15 years. This, according to the Minister, Prof. Tahir Mamman, will reveal if the private institutions under investigation have the place prescribed facilities, adequate management structure, and adequate funding of programmes among others.The Minister further hinted that the inter-ministerial committee on illegal universities will also examine, “the veracity of the allegations of degree certificate racketeering within both foreign and local private universities in Nigeria.”

THE Minister further listed other functions of the Committee as: “Review the role of any MDA or its officials (including identifying such officials) in facilitation of the recognition and procurement of the fake certificate in question;Establish if unapproved foreign institutions (Degree Mills) exist or not in Nigeria in whatever form with their identities and locations if any;Make appropriate recommendations for review of any rules, procedures, processes to prevent re-occurrence and sanctions for identified erring officials; and examine whether or not Private Universities established in the last 15 years have in the place prescribed facilities, appropriate management structure, adequate funding of programmes, requisite staff (nature of staff-full time, contract, adjunct, visiting, other types).”

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WHILE commending Umar Audu his investigative journalism prowess and taking such a huge risk, we call on the federal government to give the probe all diligence and serious it deserves in order to bring the perpetrators and their accomplices to book with a view to forestalling future occurrence. This is because holders of fake certificates constitute a great threat to the survival of any society as they claim to be what they are not. Imagine such persons getting into teaching or any public or private establishments, their incompetence and corrupt tendencies will be second to none.

THE lure and rush for institutions in foreign countries including West Africa by Nigerians are symptomatic of the dysfunctional nature of Nigeria’s educational system and the misplaced values on certificates by the labour market ahead of competence and skills. This makes parents to send their children and wards to neighbouring countries where they can complete their education at shorter time but at a huge cost. Nigerians spend billions of dollars annually on funding their children in foreign institutions.

BACK  home, most of our universities do not fare better in terms of quality and standards. Aside the mushroom campuses of some foreign universities in Nigeria which are involved in certificate racketeering, the well structured public and private universities more or less engage in mass production of graduates for which they trained with less manpower and facilities for obvious reasons thus making many of them unemployable. We therefore call on government and stakeholders to reorganise the education sector before it is too late.

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